Arlington to Examine its Names, Symbols and History

Published on September 16, 2020

Arlington County is taking the first steps toward changing the County logo and seal through a community-wide process that will also consider changing the names of places and facilities belonging to the County. The process will begin this fall with educational presentations, recommended reading, and community discussions around Arlington's history.

The renaming process will be one aspect of the County's work to advance racial equity, that seeks, among other things, to normalize community conversations around issues of race and equity in Arlington, in partnership with Challenging Racism.  It will also build on this fall's community process to update the County's Historic Preservation Master Plan. The renaming process would get underway in early 2021.

The effort comes as the County intensifies its broader commitment to prioritize and advance racial equity.

"As Arlington and our entire nation engage in a racial reckoning, we have heard from many in our community who are asking that we change images and names associated with historical figures, images and symbols whose principal legacies are the exact opposite of Arlington's values of inclusivity and equity," Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said. "The Board agrees that this is the right time to begin a community review of these names and symbols. This process will take time and will require many thoughtful and honest conversations about our identity as a community and our aspirations for the future."

About Arlington's logo, seal, and flag

Arlington County's logo, seal, and flag all feature the image of Arlington House, officially known as "Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial," where Confederate General Robert E. Lee lived, and where his family owned slaves, before the Civil War. The house stands atop a bluff overlooking the Potomac River and is closely identified with Arlington National Cemetery.

Descendants of people who were enslaved at the Custis-Lee property have lobbied for a name change, a cause that has been endorsed by Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District), whose district includes Arlington House. Beyer is pursuing legislation to remove Lee's name for the property's official designation.

The move to rename Arlington streets, bridges, and County-owned properties that honor the Confederacy or in other ways contradict the County's values of inclusivity and equity comes after the County won the right from the state in 2019 to rename Jefferson Davis Highway, named for the racist, slave-owning president of the Confederacy, "Richmond Highway" within Arlington's borders, and as the County has endorsed a community effort by the Langston Boulevard Alliance (formerly Lee Highway Alliance), a civic alliance dedicated to long-range visioning and planning along Lee Highway in Arlington, to rename the roadway within Arlington's borders.